Immediately, my whole countenance changed to stiff and reluctant. Not because I despise prayer, but because I despise the word 'should' (and all that it implies). And until I understood it, in that moment the all-encompassing dread of the "sh"- word transferred to the thought of praying as well.
It doesn't matter what it is, when I hear that I 'should' do something, I immediately decide that I don't want to and it will be horrible. After all, that's why I should be doing it and aren't already, right?
The word 'should' (and here comes your etymological lesson for the day) is derived from the old English term "sceolde". However unlike other derivatives of "sceolde" such as 'shall', this one contains a sense of obligation.
Obligation: that which we do not want to do but are forced to out of duty, legality, or requirement.
"I should do the laundry." Or, "I should exercise".
We rebel against "should" because in our naturally defiant nature (blame Adam, he started it) we do not like being told what to do. We like to have our choice. And like one of Pavlov's dogs, we have been conditioned to react negatively when we hear the word 'should' because it immediately relates to a sense of having our choice removed.
So, reenter the scene with me: 3 in the morning, laying in bed, having the dreaded "I should pray" thought. And just as I'm getting ready to (reluctantly) stir my faith and begin tackling my list of prayer items with the same demeanor someone would approach pulling their teeth out with a wrench, it hit me.
The secret to overcoming "should": the question "why?"
In asking ourselves "why?", we are reminded of the joy, choice, and freedom upon which all our "should's" are built. The 'why's are the reasons our 'should's ever existed in the first place.
More importantly, the 'why's offer the motivation and perspective necessary to get our hearts involved in the matter (which is, as we know from Bible scriptures, the best way to go about doing anything properly).
So instead of leaving it at "I should pray", I can ask myself to remember why.
"I should pray because I want to see lives changed"
"I should pray because I want to build my relationship with the lover of my soul"
"I should pray because I want to God to respond"
And just like that, my heart is back on board.
Tina Hakimi is an Arizona-raised, Sydney-based writer pursuing her doctorate at UNSW.
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